Entre les Ruines, 2014
Made in collaboration with Baladi dancer and choreographer Alexandre Paulikevitch and musicians Layale Chacker, David Schaffer, Sharif Sehnaoui, Jean-Jaques Palix, and Zied Meddeb Hamrouni
Fattouh drives with Paulikevitch to the south of Lebanon after the 2006 war with Israel. Paulikevitch dances in the ruins of a destroyed village briefly while Fattouh films him. The short clip is then sent to five different musicians from Lebanon, Tunisia and France who were invited to set the movement to a score. The five segments are played in a loop and, when viewed together, give a sense of the importance of the aural to the perception of the city.
When I visited Bint Jbeil in December 2006, a few months after the ceasefire, I was overwhelmed but the evidence of violence. I remember that it was very cold, it was snowing. My body literally felt besieged by the landscape of ruin, by what had happened. When I got out of the car and became aware to what extent the village was devastated, I found I couldn’t keep myself from remembering the television coverage that pictured the mutilated bodies of anonymous victims that the aid workers—or just ordinary people—were pulling from the rubble. I was walking in that rubble, on people’s personal effects, which littered the ground of their gutted houses. These traces of everyday life were in stark contrast to the silence of the place. It was like time had stopped in the face of an immense violence. That war had engraved it upon our memories. I wanted, in response, to leave other traces, other kinds of images than those left to us by the news media over the course of the 2006 war. At the time of that dance, I wanted to break with what seemed like a sacralisation of the disaster and death while still revealing the magnitude of the war’s effect on civilian life. For me, the dance was the only way to demonstrate the impossibility of representing such a disaster, such violence.
What does the disjuncture between sound and image signify for you? What is important about making this gap explicit?
The necessary dissociation between sound and image was obvious to me. As I was filming, I decided not to use the music to which the performer Alexandre Paulikévitch was dancing in part because the music wasn’t really important in the beginning. I just wanted a body that was both masculine and feminine at the same time to dance in the ruins of the village of Bint Jbeil. The idea to invite five musicians to interpret the footage came to me once the editing was finished. As in another work of mine, La Traverse, I edited according to a rhythm that is absent in the final cut — in this case, the rhythm of the music to which Paulikévitch was dancing. It was important to add music that was not in sync with the dancer’s movements. The music or the soundtrack should not be subordinate to the image, but should instead add another meaning. This gesture is also a position; it fragments the linear illusion of the video and obliges the viewer to accept the fragmentary, contingent relationship between image and sound. My practice takes places in the moment of rupture, in the breakdown of stable categories, both in art and my theoretical work.
How did you choose the musicians you collaborated with on this work? What did you want the range to accomplish?
Several years ago I wrote a screenplay for a short film, and I wanted twelve musicians to contribute to the sound. I never finished that project, but editing the footage for this video made me want to work with musicians with different forms of training. I sent a group email to several different musicians to ask if they would be interested in a project like this. I wanted to juxtapose their perception to my own. I wondered what they would feel in response to the footage of Bint Jbeil, how they would interpret these feelings on a sonic level. It felt important to leave them complete freedom of interpretation.
Sirine Fattouh is a Lebanese artist living between Paris and Beirut. Interested in histories from below, her personal work, as a researcher and artist consists of examining the consequences of violence and displacements on people’s identities. She holds a doctorate in Visual Arts and Aesthetics from the University Paris 1 Pantheon-Sorbonne and a Master’s degree from the École Nationale Supérieure d'Arts of Paris Cergy. She has been teaching Visual Arts since 2005 at the University Paris 1 Pantheon-Sorbonne and is affiliated with the Center for the Study and Research in Visual Arts (CERAP). In 2011, she was an assistant curator for Middle Eastern Art at the Pompidou Centre in Paris. She has exhibited her work in group shows and solo exhibitions such as the Beirut Art Center, Roy Sfeir Gallery, The Biennial of Contemporary Art in Bourges, the French Cultural Center in Beirut, The Running Horse Contemporary Art Space and the Thessaloniki Biennale of Contemporary Art.